Friday, August 29, 2008

Cacti and Succulents

There's not too much going on with the veggies right now, so I thought I'd show you all a few cacti and succulents that we're growing in containers.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


We have our first roses in many, many months. They are a bit on the small side due to the heat, but are roses nonetheless. This plant put on lots of nice sized flowers in the Spring, but then almost died due to a mishap with the drip irrigation system. It seems to be doing much better now.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

First Desert Wildflower

A while back we decided to try something new in several hanging baskets. We had been having problems getting other plants to live in these baskets, and ran across a pack of seeds labeled simply "Desert Wildflowers." Being in the desert, we figured we might as well give them a try (see Desert Wildflowers).
So far, the results have been mixed. The seeds germinated quickly and produced lots of little plants. Yet the plants in the back yard have grown far larger than those in the front. I'm assuming this is due to variations in the amount of sunlight. None of the plants, regardless of Sun or size, have been in any hurry to bloom. They've seemed to just sit there, and look alot like weeds. Then, this morning we got our first bloom. I have no idea what kind of flower it is, other than just the generic "desert wildflower" listed on the seed package, but it's pretty cool looking.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Carrot Harvest

We harvested the last of our carrots a few days ago. It seems they didn't grow much if any over the Summer. I suspect the heat had something to do with that. But even if undersized, we got a decent amount from such a small space.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Marianne's Plant Markers

I can always count on my wife to add a bit of sparkle to my life--literally as well as figuratively. So, the other day when she decided to make plant markers for my newly transplanted tomato seedlings, I had a good idea of what to expect. I knew that glitter would be involved in some fashion; it was only a question of how much. Anyhow, I think they turned out great. She really did an exceptional job of sparkling up the garden.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Baby Cucumbers

We have cucumbers! After about a month of unsuccessful blooms, this morning I found six tiny cucumbers on our lone remaining plant. It's going to be interesting to see if the confines of the hanging basket influence how large they grow.

Very Cool!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mold and Mushrooms

When I went out yesterday and pulled up our drowned bell pepper plant (see Our Mastiff Helper ) this came up along with it:
It's a clump of mushrooms that had been growing undetected under the mulch. Digging around a bit more, I noticed that the soil was very moldy and smelled mildewed. After seeing and smelling this, I decided that replacing all of the soil was probably the best thing to do. So I transplanted the Jalapeno plant to another container, and threw the Mortgage Lifter tomato plant into the compost bin. The tomato plant had turned yellow and pretty much stopped growing. Like the bell pepper plant, its roots were also completely white with mold.

This time around I enlarged the barrel's drain holes quite a bit and I think I'll leave off the mulch. If, by some future accident, it receives an overdose of water again I want it to drain quickly.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thai Basil

Here's a picture of our Thai Basil plant. This year has been our first attempt at growing this variety. We've learned that it grows really well here and makes a very attractive plant. The problem is that neither of us care for its ultra strong, licorice-like taste. Have any of you grown this before and, if so, how did it taste?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mysterious Cucumber Ailment

This morning I went out to find one of our hanging basket cucumber plants in terrible shape. At least 75 percent of the plant just dried up and wilted away during the night. Strange stuff....any ideas?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Our Mastiff Helper

I got a bit of uninvited help with our plants the other day from Tessa, the one-year-old English Mastiff. Being the curious and sometimes tired 140 lb. (63.5 kg) puppy that she is, Tessa decided to investigate a bell pepper plant. The problem is that her "investigation" seems to have focused on the comfort level of the pepper's container and was carried out via her rear end. Yes, all indications are that she sat on it.
Tessa lounging around

Tessa and John

Unfortunately the damage to the plant went beyond just the physical breaking of stems and tearing of leaves that you would expect from it having been used as a cushion by a Mastiff. It appears that somehow, during the act of sitting, one of the container's water emitters ended up adjusted to maximum flow. A few days later I got up early one morning and noticed a large puddle around the whisky barrel where the pepper is planted. A closer inspection revealed completely soaked soil and a very rough looking pepper plant. It looks like my discovery of the excess water came a little too late, as the plant has now lost almost all of its leaves. Tessa and I have managed to drown a bell pepper plant in the desert.

adjustable water emitter

over-watered pepper plant

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Coffee Filters and Planters

Here's an interesting tip that I picked up a while back: To keep soil from slowly leaking out of your planters, place coffee filters over the drain holes. This allows the water through but stops the dirt.

I gave it a try last week with a tomato container. Basically I just cut a few filters in half, taped them over the holes, and filled with potting mix. So far it is working as planned. I can only see two potential problems: 1) filters may rot quickly and fall apart, 2) filters might become clogged and stop water from draining properly. Either way, it's not a big deal. If they rot and fall apart then it's just like they were never there, and if they become clogged and impede drainage I can just poke a stick or something through them. So, if it works that's cool and if not, nothing is lost. It's already made for a pretty cool picture.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Tomato Seedling Update

It's been about three weeks since our tomato seedlings came up and most are now ready to be transplanted outside into their permanent containers. Over the past week, I've been putting them outside for a little longer each day, in an attempt to harden them off against the hot weather. This seems to be working, as they now last much longer before drooping under the direct Sun than they did at the beginning of the week. I plan on transplanting one each of the Black Krim, Hawaiian Tropic, and San Marzano this evening.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Purple Bell Pepper Plant

Marianne's "Purple Beauty" bell pepper plant finally came up a couple of days ago. I planted the thing over two weeks ago and was just about ready to give up on it. That's yet another lesson in patience. Anyway, I'm glad to see it growing now and I hope she gets lots of purple bell peppers off of it in the Fall.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hanging Cucumber Update

Our hanging cucumber plants continue to grow and bloom, but have yet to produce anything edible. As with the tomato plants, I think it's just too hot for the blooms to set. I've also noticed that that hanging basket's soil dries out much faster than that of our other containers. Currently I'm having to water the cucumbers twice daily.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Aluminum Foil and Container Gardening

One of the main problems with container gardening in a desert environment is the overheating of the plants' roots. In contrast to a normal plant with its roots insulated deep in the ground, the container plant's root system is separated from 100 degree (37.8 c) plus temperatures only by a small amount of dirt and the thin walls of its container. Further, as the hot desert Sun shines on the container walls, the soil temperatures inside climb even higher. These conditions often combine to bake a plant's roots and impede its development.
The other day, as I was putting my reflective windshield screen up in my car, I had an idea. If the reflective material is so effective at keeping the Sun out and temperature down inside the closed environment of my car's interior, the same should be true about the temperature inside a plant container. So, with this in mind, I grabbed some aluminum foil and went out and wrapped it around the 15 gallon (56.7 liter) container into which I had recently transplanted a Black Prince tomato seedling.
The foil experiment seems to have been successful. During the hottest part of the day, the soil temperature in the wrapped container is noticeably cooler than in the unwrapped ones nearby. The only downside is that it looks like something that should be on a spaceship.

The panel for our solar powered walkway lights adds to the spaceship look.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Surprise German Queen

Just a little over a month ago, I planted six German Queen tomato seeds that I had harvested from my family's garden in Alabama. Unfortunately, none of the seeds seemed to germinate. After a couple of weeks of waiting, I finally gave in to impatience and removed them. Yet I could only find five of the six that I had planted. Assuming that the other seed had rotted away (the five that I excavated were in pretty bad shape and showed no evidence of sprouting) I proceeded to plant a Hawaiian Tropic seed in the same pod. It came up three to four days later and everything seemed fine. Then, a few days ago, a new little plant popped up beside the Hawaiian seedling. It seems the German Queen decided to make a showing after all.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Last week, after the guys finished with our sidewalk and front porch coating, I noticed that a grasshopper had managed to get itself into quite a predicament. The poor thing had jumped onto the adhesive side of a piece of tape that the men had used to tie back a plant beside the sidewalk. So, after several minutes of being spit upon and bitten, I somehow freed the 3 inch (7.6 cm) long grasshopper from his sticky situation with all of his legs intact. Now, for the past eight days, it has been present every morning as I water--sitting, watching, and hopping from one tree/plant to another when the water gets too close. I guess I'll have to give the thing a name. Any suggestions?
Update: We've decided to name the grasshopper Heidi as suggested by our friend Andrea.

On the Water Nozzle

Hiding Behind a Leaf

Friday, August 8, 2008

San Marzano Tomato Plants

It's really strange how plants grow at different rates when treated exactly the same. I planted the seeds for both of the San Marzano seedlings pictured below on the same day using the same soil mixture. Since then, they have been watered at the same times, and exposed to exactly the same amount of light under the grow lamp. Yet one is doing very well, while the other is growing at a snail's pace.

These Italian heirlooms are said to be among the best paste tomatoes and highly desired by pizzerias. Hopefully we'll be able to perform our own taste test to find out just how good they really are.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Black-Eyed Peas

Following yesterday's post about how all of the plants have stopped making vegetables due to the heat, I walked out and found a surprise. Our one surviving black-eyed pea bush--a plant hasn't produced a single thing since it was planted in March--has now decided to put on two pea pods. This is very cool, as I had honestly decided that black-eyed peas just weren't compatible with this climate. Now, if the the plant will just go into pea production overdrive, maybe there's a chance that I can add a few homegrown peas to our annual New Year's Day black-eyed pea and cabbage lunch.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Blooming in the Heat

The past couple of days have been very nice here in Vegas. Cloud cover and the threat of rain have managed to keep high temperatures in the 95 to 100 degree range. For those of you that have never experienced Summer in America's desert Southwest, such temperatures are quite a reprieve. August in Vegas really sucks the energy out of person and plant alike.

Out in the garden this is very evident as the plants are just refusing to put on new vegetables. With the amount of blooms we've had recently on our Jalapeno, bell pepper, okra, and tomato plants we would be overwhelmed with produce if the temperature would just stay below the mid 90 (32 c) degree mark. Instead, with normal daytime highs hovering between 105 and 110 (41 to 43 c) and nightly lows in the mid to upper 80s (29-31 c), the blooms just dry up, fall off, and blow away in the hot desert wind. Even our okra (a plant that loves heat) is saying no way, as it's dropping bloom after bloom rather than producing pods. It all really makes me wonder at how people could live here before the age of air conditioning. They must have been some extraordinarily tough characters!

Jalapeno Blooms

Bell Pepper Blooms

Dried Up Okra Blooms

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tomato Seedlings Update

The tomato seeds that I planted on July 24 (see Tomato Olympics post) have really taken off. Both of the Black Krims emerged from the soil first, with the Hawaiian Tropics following closely behind. The San Marzanos took a little more time, but they eventually made it. All of the plants have now grown to about three to four inches and put on quite a few leaves. Yesterday I transplanted them from their seed starting pods to larger pots. After they've grown in these for a couple of weeks I'll move them into their permanent containers.

Seedlings in Seed Starting Pods. From Left to Right: Black Krim, San Marzano, Hawaiin Tropic

Seedlings Transplanted into Larger Growth Pots

Monday, August 4, 2008

Pebblestone Coating

This past Friday, Marianne and I watched in awe as Pebble Stone Coatings came out and worked their magic on our front sidewalk and porch area. We are simply thrilled with their product, the quality of service they provided, and the results! When Sean (the company representative) came out and scheduled the work, we went through the color selection and ended up with a pretty coralite coating, which is yellowish, and according to Marianne looks like "yummy rock candy". (She vetoed my pick, and as usual she was right on, HAH!) I know it seems difficult to believe in this day and age, but this company's crew showed up promptly at the time they had scheduled, and knew exactly what they were doing! They got right to work and finished the job within just a few hours. The coating had to dry for about 24 hours before we could walk on it, but at least during this time we had the pleasure of looking at it.
Close up of Pebble Stone Coating
It's really difficult to describe how much the pebble stone improved our front yard's appearance, so here are a few pictures of their expert work. This blog does not do product reviews or paid reviews, but we had this installed and just love the result, so call Sean or check out the Pebble Stone Coatings site.
Before Pebble Stone Coating

After Pebble Stone Coating

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Saturday Bliss

Hello Internet, here is another guest post from The Wife! We have spent the very hot desert morning fixing up our front yard. We FINALLY got our gorgeous Pebblestone coating in yesterday, and there will be a full blog post about that later. Anyways, this gave us an excuse to redo, or as I call it, prettify, our front yard a little bit :) Here are some photos - hope you enjoy them!
I made a new wreath for the front door, complete with
sparkly buttons shaped like ladybugs and butterflies

Our summer flag, and a garden stake
with a cat holding a flag in its tail

Our sparkly welcome sign (purple glitter!)

The Huzz, enjoying it all!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Revenge of the Tomato!

Several weeks ago, hornworms attacked our tomato plants while we were out of town. The creatures completely stripped our Lemon Boy and Black Prince plants, while doing major damage to the Better Boy and Sunmaster. Although I replaced the Better Boy, I decided to follow a different strategy with the others.

Since I didn't have any seedlings ready to replace the other damaged plants with, I decided to try and save them. So I continued watering the poor leafless things and pruned back all of their old branches, leaving only the main stems. Within a few days, shoots of new leaves began appearing from the bottom of the plants and from the junctions of the old branches and the main stem. Instead of pinching off these "suckers" as guides advise when doing regular pruning, I figured I'd let them grow. The results have been pretty good, as the plants' have recovered quite a bit of foliage and even put on a few blooms. I suppose you could call it their revenge against the hornworms.


Lemon Boy

Black Prince